Thursday, August 12, 2010

Val Peacock Drops Mushroom Cloud of Light and Reason: Crafties, Step Up and Take Action!

Listen up Crafties. Check out the latest issue of The New Brewer. The venerable Val Peacock, Phd, the former hopmeister for Anheuser-Busch, has penned a prophetic essay that you just have to read, digest, ponder and act on.

Peacock makes the following points, which are worth bulleting:
  • Since Inbev bought out Bud in 2008, there’s been a huge void in enforcing quality standards for aroma hops. Or, as IH has been arguing, the Crafties can no longer “draft” off the Big Boys, and to prosper they must take charge in monitoring farm practices, breeding, yields, pest/disease problems, etc.

  • There’s a clear and present danger that the Industrial’s obsession with pre-isomerized and downstream hop products will further erode the quality of domestic production of aroma hops. Or, as IH has inveighed, the Crafties need to invest in the farmers, breeders and merchant who serve their needs, exclusively.

  • Aroma and super alpha hops mature differently, and thus farmers need to harvest them when they are ripe and ready, not when it’s economically expedient. Exactly, that’s why Indie Hops has financed a breeding program at OSU that includes a pilot study that is evaluating the optimal date for harvesting big oily aroma hops.

  • The shift towards super alphas will undermine the diversity, yields and quality of US aroma hops, as well as the survival of many aroma hop farmers, who are now selling hops below the cost of production. Exactly. That’s why IH is investing in select, heritage hop farmers in the optimal terroir for aroma hops, the Willamette Valley. IH works with hop farmers who are committed to investing in quality.

  • Dry-hop lovin’ Crafties crave flavor, but in the absence of AB’s field program, which subsidized aroma quality production, Crafties can expect a decline in to-die-for aromas and flavors. Yes. That’s why Indie Hops has financed a $1 million aroma hop breeding program. That’s why we’ve focused 100% on growing aroma and dual purpose hops.

  • Crafties need to visit the hop farms where their hops are being grown. They need to take an interest in the cleanliness of the fields and equipment, the drying of hops, optimal harvest dates, pest infestations, etc. Can I get an Amen! That’s why IH has been inviting Crafties to come visit the yards of our farm partners. We want you to see, feel, smell and enjoy our bounty. But we also invite you to visit the nearby plant where your hops will be lightly processed, packaged and stored. Aroma hops need TLC in the fields and in the mill and we want you to hold us to the highest standard!

US hop farmers “want to do everything they can to establish long term mutually beneficial relationships with brewers, and they view craft brewers as the future.” Free at last! IH has been sermonizing from the get go that the craft revolution is big and strong enough to support its own network of farmers, breeders and processors who are committed to putting hand-crafted quality over big box quantity.

And, finally, this little mushroom cloud of bright light and awesome reason, which I just have to quote in full:

"Last but not least, don’t expect to buy your hops on the spot market every year below the cost of production and still get good quality, or for that matter, delivery of your hops in short years. This will cost you even more in the long run than paying a sustainable price, and sends a signal to growers that you don't care about investing in hop quality! If the domestic aroma market becomes commoditized as the alpha market, quality will deteriorate." (emphasis added)

Prophetic. Beautiful. Concise. Illuminating. Well written Val. We appreciate the validation. Now let’s take action. Come visit the farms where our diverse variety of non-proprietary hops are being grown. Come watch your fresh hops being converted to plump green pellets at our nearby mill in Hubbard. And we’d be happy to escort you down to Corvallis to visit our aroma hop breeding program lab and fields at OSU.

Roger Worthington

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